by Roger Biermann
I present to you the automotive definition of excess – loud, in your face excess. If you’re going to show off in a car, you’re not going to get a chrome-wheeled Bentley – you’ll get this, the Mercedes-AMG G65. Though the G-Class may once have been a proud military vehicle capable of many off-roading feats, all that stopped the day the Gelandewagen got the AMG treatment. But the G65 takes AMG treatment and turns the dial up to 11 – trading out familiar V8s for a more-power-than-you-know-what-to-do-with V12 and shed-loads of attitude. Of course it comes at the compromise of off-road ability, but you’ll look badass.
Despite the big boxy proportions, the Mercedes-AMG G65 is very, very tight inside. The fact that the original G was engineered decades ago isn’t hard to see as ergonomically it feels outdated. It’s awkward to climb in and out, and the AMG seats with their quilted leather don’t adjust far enough back for even an average height driver to get really comfortable. But on the flipside, the visibility is pretty exceptional – when you’re perched that high and that upright, being able to see over the hood is a certainty. But in terms of space, it doesn’t improve as you move to the rear of the cabin, where the seating position is awkward, and there’s no adjustability to make it even vaguely comfortable. The back seats do fold, but leave a step in the floor making it awkward to use the full volume available. With the rear seats up, there’s a disappointing 4.3 cubic feet in a tall, but awkward box.
Bona fide off-roaders feature hard suspension, as do most AMG products. Throw the two together and you’ve got some of the firmest springing you’ll ever come across. The dampers are great at filtering out secondary ride imperfections, but the springs make it feel like you’ve got a pogo stick at each corner, bouncing down the road alarmingly. The steering lacks directness and feels vague – not through electrification, but through plain old age. The wheel may as well be connected to the front wheels of another G-Class in a different state altogether. Back in the 70s when the G-Class was developed, none of the engineers envisaged a performance variant in its future – so to AMGify it doesn’t do it any favors. In doing so, and equipping low profile tires, the G65 is also robbed of any off-road potential, despite the three lockable differentials that might suggest otherwise.
AMG models badged with a ‘65’ define excess. Though an AMG 63 might provide similar performance, the 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 under the hood is a classic case of ‘mine is bigger’. With 621 horsepower and 738 monumental lb-ft of torque mated to all-wheel drive via a 7-speed automatic gearbox. Despite all that power, the 0-60 mph sprint still takes 5.2 seconds – 0.1 quicker than a vastly less powerful 63, and still towing the same 7000 pounds as its lesser AMG sibling. Out of interest, the EPA rates fuel economy at 11MPG in the city and 13 on the highway.
The most excess Gelandewagen of all, the G65 is incredibly luxuriously equipped. 10-way power adjustable front seats are heated, ventilated, and swathed in designo Nappa leather with diamond quilting. Dual-zone climate control and rear privacy glass are also standard. In the way of safety equipment, there’s blind spot monitoring, Distronic distance pilot assist with adaptive cruise control, park distance sensors, a rear view camera, electronic stability control, hill start assist, and ABS with brake assist, as well as ISOFIX anchors on the outboard rear seats. The AMG G65 has not been tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA.
Few other manufacturers have the cojones to pull of something as frankly insane as the Mercedes-AMG G65. It’s useless off-road, can’t live up to the AMG performance on road, and features ergonomics from 4 decades ago. But its insanity is its most endearing charm – one that never seems to wear off.